Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
A federal law that went into effect in 2013 protects individuals who are victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. The name of the law is the Violence Against Women Act, or “VAWA.” This notice explains your rights under VAWA.
Protections for Victims
If you are eligible for public housing, the housing authority cannot refuse to admit you to the public housing program on the basis that you are a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
If you are the victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking, the housing authority cannot evict you based on acts or threats of violence committed against you. Also, criminal acts directly related to the domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking that are caused by a member of your household or a guest can’t be the reason for evicting you if you were the victim of the abuse.
Reasons You Can Be Evicted
The housing authority can still evict you if the housing authority can show there is an actual and imminent (immediate) threat to other tenants or housing authority staff if you are not evicted. Also, the housing authority can evict you for serious or repeated lease violations that are not related to the domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking against you. The housing authority cannot hold you to a more demanding set of rules than it applies to tenants who are not victims.
Removing the Abuser from the Household
The housing authority may split the lease to evict a tenant who has committed criminal acts of violence against family members or others, while allowing the victim and other household members to stay in the public housing unit. If the housing authority chooses to remove the abuser, it may not take away the remaining tenants’ rights to the unit or otherwise punish the remaining tenants. In removing the abuser from the household, the housing authority must follow federal, state, and local eviction procedures.
Proving That You Are a Victim of Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, or Stalking
The housing authority can ask you to prove or “certify” that you are a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. It must give you at least 14 business days (i.e., Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays do not count) to provide this proof. The housing authority is free to extend the deadline. There are three ways you can prove that you are a victim:
- Complete the certification form given to you by the housing authority. The form will ask for your name, the name of your abuser, the abuser’s relationship to you, the date, time, and location of the incident of violence, and a description of the violence. You are only required to provide the name of the abuser if it is safe to provide and you know their name.
- Provide a statement from a victim service provider, attorney, mental health professional, or medical professional who has helped you address incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. The professional must state that he or she believes that the incidents of abuse are real. Both you and the professional must sign the statement, and both of you must state that you are signing “under penalty of perjury.”
- Provide a police or court record, such as a protective order, or an administrative record.
Additionally, at its discretion, the housing authority can accept a statement or other evidence provided by the applicant or tenant.
If you fail to provide one of these documents within the required time, the housing authority may evict you.
- The housing authority must keep confidential any information you provide about the violence against you, unless:
- You give written permission to the housing authority to release the information.
- The housing authority needs to use the information in an eviction proceeding, such as to evict your abuser.
- A law requires the housing authority to release the information.
- If release of the information would put your safety at risk, you should inform the housing authority.
VAWA and Other Laws
VAWA does not limit the housing authority’s duty to honor court orders about access to or control of a public housing unit. This includes orders issued to protect a victim and orders dividing property among household members in cases where a family breaks up.
VAWA does not replace any federal, state, or local law that provides greater protection for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
For Additional Information
If you have any questions regarding VAWA, please contact the Director of Public Housing at 405-605-3273.
For help and advice on escaping an abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).